Category Archives: Winery Visits

Upgrade Your Tasting Experience With Arrowood’s New “Private Seated Tasting”

Disclaimer: While this post was sponsored by Arrowood Vineyards, all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Arrowood Vineyards

The popularity of Cabernet Sauvignon is no secret, and readers often ask for my recommendations when planning a trip to Sonoma and Napa since I spend so much time there; and while I’m immensely fond of Sonoma and Napa producers alike, I often find myself recommending Sonoma Cabernet producers these days. Why, do you ask?

Because the stronger maritime influences of Sonoma’s climate generally lends itself to more restrained, lower-alcohol Cabernet Sauvignons and the prices of the wines are often more reasonable than their better-known Napa Valley counterparts.

Plus, those who think great Cabernet only hails from Napa Valley might just be in for a surprise, as even I was when I recently visited Arrowood Vineyards and Winery, located in the very heart of Sonoma Valley just off of Sonoma Highway 12.

The “Private Seated Tasting” offers guests an intimate introduction to Arrowood’s Compelling Portfolio of Reserve-Level Cabernets Paired with Gourmet Cheese and Charcuterie While Overlooking the Panoramic Vineyard Views of the Arrowood Estate. 

I recently had the pleasure of visiting and experiencing the winery’s brand new “Private Seated Tasting” experience, and was delighted to find that truly compelling Cabernet Sauvignon was not just a part of the the tasting, but was proudly the star. Of the five reserve wines I was able to taste, four were 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Included in the tasting and paired with a gourmet charcuterie plate were the following wines:

  • 2013 Arrowood Proprietary Red (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec)
  • 2013 Arrowood Monte Rosso Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2013 Arrowood Smothers-Remick Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2013 Arrowood Cabernet Sauvignon Réserve Spéciale
  • 2005 Arrowood Cabernet Sauvignon Réserve Spéciale

Offering distinctive wines that are uniquely expressive of their terroir is very much part of the soul of Arrowood, as Richard Arrowood, who founded the winery over 30 years ago, was an early pioneer of vineyard-designated offerings in Sonoma County. While Richard retired from Arrowood in 2011 (his legendary winemaking career spans more than 50 years in Sonoma), he recognized early on the potential for Cabernet Sauvignon in various regions throughout Sonoma.

Arrowood Vineyards

Guests can choose to enjoy the Private Seated Tasting on the patio overlooking Arrowood’s Estate Vineyards

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Belden Barns | Your Wish For Affordable Pinot Just Came True

Belden Barns | Your Wish for Affordable Pinot Just Came True

Belden Barns

Quietly tucked away off of windy Sonoma Mountain Road is where you’ll find Belden Barns Winery. Resting at roughly 1,000 feet of elevation on the Northwest shoulder of Sonoma Mountain, this unique property is the original home of Steiner Vineyard, the acclaimed site that has provided the foundation for sought-after wines from producers such as Donelan Family, Carlisle and Eric Kent.

Originally founded by Bennett Valley/Sonoma Mountain pioneer Dave Steiner (who was actually married to the founder of Matanzas Creek), the property had fallen into disrepair and most of the vineyards were badly damaged by phylloxera; until Nate Belden recognized the potential of this site and acquired the property in 2005.

Belden Barns

Growing up immersed in agriculture, Nate spent his youth on a horse farm in Colorado until a career in finance transported him to the sometimes harsh realities of city life. But as time went on he began to miss his former agrarian lifestyle more and more. He dreamed of getting back to his roots, and a trip to wine country with friends ignited an idea and a passion that he couldn’t resist. After a year of searching and dreaming of the perfect property, Belden Barns became a reality.

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Turnbull Winery | A Napa Stalwart Finds Renewed Focus

Turnbull Winery | A Napa Stalwart Finds Renewed Focus

Turnbull Winery

Napa wineries located directly off of Napa’s bustling main artery Highway 29 sometimes get a bad rap – although maybe not for the reason you’d expect. You see the issue typically isn’t the quality of the wine, as some of the most respected wineries in the valley enjoy the level of visibility and prestige afforded by such a location.

But the crowds and overall guest experience can be quite a different story. Let’s just say that tour buses and bachelorette parties are not an uncommon sight, and sadly, I wouldn’t be surprised if you found yourself wrangling with some Napa snobbery here and there.

My suggestion? Make your way to one of Highway 29’s most underrated gems: Turnbull Winery, where the only wrangling you’ll have to do will be with yourself when you’re forced to figure out which wines you enjoyed the most!

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The Best Franciacorta Wines | Italy Gets Serious About Sparkling

The Best Franciacorta Wines | Italy Gets Serious About Sparkling Wine

Franciacorta Wine

When you’re deciding which sparkling wine to purchase, it’s not uncommon to consider the gold standards of Champagne or the similarly reliable, yet significantly more affable Prosecco options from Italy’s Veneto region. Many savor the former, while the latter is often relegated to mimosa duty. But look a little harder and you’ll not only discover Italy’s best kept secret, but one of the best-kept secrets in the world of wine: Franciacorta.

What this relatively young yet fiercely dynamic wine region lacks in sheer size and history it more than makes up for in quality, consistently producing distinctive sparkling wines that rival the quality of those in Champagne, yet are produced in their own unique style. Consider the fact that they’re often less expensive than their expertly-branded French counterparts an added bonus.

Franciacorta is the only region in Italy where all of the wines are made in the costly and significantly more time consuming Méthode Traditionelle, whereby the wines undergo their secondary fermentation and aging in bottle, resulting in more complex, finessed sparklers.

If you’re wondering why you might not be familiar with Franciacorta’s wines, the numbers offer an explanation. Champagne boasts a towering production of roughly 300 million bottles per year from 75,000 vineyard acres, while Franciacorta spans merely 10% of that size, measuring just 7,800 acres.

Champagne has also been in the business since as early as the 17th century, while Franciacorta has only been producing wine since 1961. But such a stark contrast highlights what might just be most impressive about this little region in Northern Italy: how far and how quickly it has come in barely 50 years.

Franciacorta Wine

Understanding Franciacorta | An Area, Production Method and a Wine

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The New Lokoya Estate | Lokoya Finds The Home Its Always Deserved

The New Lokoya Estate | Lokoya Finds The Home Its Always Deserved

Lokoya Estate

Visiting Napa’s New Lokoya Estate

Lokoya needs little introduction to avid collectors. For over twenty years, these highly-acclaimed wines have found themselves right at home in the cellars of discerning enthusiasts throughout the world. Yet the brand itself never really had a place to call home, until now.

While existing fans and collectors could taste the wines at Cardinale’s Oakville estate on the Napa Valley floor, it was always more of an accommodation for loyal supporters rather than a complete Lokoya experience.

While Cardinale aspires to be the perfect blend of benchland and mountain vineyards, Lokoya is always 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from a single mountain AVA (Veeder, Spring, Howell and Diamond) vinified in the same exact way to communicate the purest singular expression of mountain terroir possible. As Winemaker Chris Carpenter’s sees it, Lokoya is a study of the mountain through the lens of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Commanding Wines Deserve a Commanding View

Lokoya Estate

The terrace at the new Lokoya Estate

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Big Cork Vineyards | A BIG Reason To Take MD Wine Seriously

Big Cork Vineyards | A BIG Reason To Take MD Wine Seriously

Big Cork Vineyards

Wine lovers residing in the Washington metropolitan area have witnessed tremendous progress in the local wine scene, with quality up significantly across the board. And sure, not every winery is making great wine… Naturally, being locals, we’ve wanted to like them so badly – yet we’ve all poured out our share of thin, lifeless wine in mournful disappointment. But major advances in viticultural practices have been paying off in a big way, and the proof is in the pudding.

Regrettably even I don’t take the time to explore the local wine scene as much as I probably should, but a recent invitation from the folks at Big Cork Vineyards in Rohresville, Maryland piqued my interest. Located roughly one hour northwest of DC or thirty minutes east of Frederick, the country chic winery and tasting room offer a stunning contrast to the bucolic setting, with fresh country breezes and endless views of rolling hills making you feel right at home – or blissfully away from it.

Big Cork Vineyards

Estate vineyards surrounding Big Cork’s winery and tasting room

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Perliss Vineyards | Expect Big Things from this Small Producer

Perliss Vineyards | Expect Big Things from this Small Producer

Perliss Vineyards

When you think of Calistoga, you would be correct in thinking that this sleepy locale nestled within the Northern stretches of Napa Valley is known for its relatively warmer temperatures than those areas of the valley located further south, with their proximity to the cooling influences of the San Pablo Bay.

Yet on the beautifully clear August morning when I visited Perliss Vineyards, I pleasantly surprised by the cool, persistent breezes serenading me as I explored the organically cultivated, gently sloped 2.6 acre Raven Vineyard with vintner Anthony Perliss.

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A Renewed Perspective on Lodi Wine Post WBC16

A Renewed Perspective on Lodi Wine Post WBC16

Borra Vineyards Rose

Sharing a bottle of Borra Vineyards Rose with Winemaker Markus Niggli

As many times as I’ve made the arduous but worthwhile cross country trek to explore Sonoma and Napa, I had never been to Lodi – despite it being a relatively easy hour and a half drive from Napa.

I regularly stay in Sonoma and scale the switchbacks of the Mayacamas (this is how I wake myself up for those early morning visits) via Oakville Grade to visit producers in Napa, and vice versa. Depending on where they’re located, that in itself often consumes the better part of an hour. So why hadn’t I made it to nearby Lodi?

The answer is that I didn’t think I would enjoy the wines. Lodi primarily forged its reputation as more of a grower than a producer, and with over 700 growers in Lodi, much of its fruit is still sold to bulk producers. With grape growing serving as the lifeblood of the region, its understandable that Lodi has faced challenges cultivating its brand as a source of premium wine production.

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Ehlers Estate | Where To Start Your Day In Napa

Ehlers Estate | Your Mornings Will Never Be The Same

Ehlers Estate

I’m not much of a morning person. It typically takes me a few hours, and a least as many coffees before I’m completely awake. My morning routine is pretty mundane here in Washington, D.C. Up at 7:20, make a quick coffee and then take the kids to school. After returning home,  I make some fried eggs, another coffee and get to work in my home office. Exciting stuff, right? But after my recent visit to Ehlers Estate, it has been quite the challenge to return to my normal morning routine…

I’ve been to many tastings that start at 10 am, but to my knowledge Ehlers Estate is the only Napa Valley winery offering the opportunity to wake up over a flight of estate-grown wines paired with buttery, flaky croissants delivered fresh from Bouchon Bakery in Yountville. Where else but in Napa Valley can you literally wake up to a wine tasting?!

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Young Inglewood | Mastering the Tightrope in Napa Valley

Young Inglewood | Mastering the Tightrope in Napa Valley

Young Inglewood

What I look for in a good Cabernet Sauvignon is a combination of depth, structure and balance. If that doesn’t sound like a tall order, believe me it isn’t often enough that all of these components come together in a truly compelling and harmonious fashion – yet the 2012 Young Inglewood Cabernet Sauvignon manages to makes it seem effortless.

Before Jim and Jacky Young founded Young Inglewood Vineyards, they asked themselves what their favorite wines had in common. They keenly pinpointed that it was in fact the often elusive element of balance that made these wines so special.

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